The Premier League title hopefuls cancelled each other out in Monday night’s stalemate but there were a number of things to take away from the game.
In the end, it appeared that both managers were relatively content with a point in this clash that failed to live up to pre-match optimism.
The hype surrounded Wayne Rooney and the tug-of-war that the sides have played for his hand over the summer dominated proceedings, and the England international is part of the five things that were apparent after the 90 minutes of action.
Wayne Rooney will be massively important for United or Chelsea
The summer-long frustration of Rooney’s transfer saga will come to an end in forthcoming days, with the England international likely to stay with United for another season. One thing that can be said is the reasons for Chelsea’s attempts to buy the forward became clear in the 0-0 draw.
Rooney had fitness concerns ahead of the game, but in a match that provided little spark or excitement in either final quarter, the former Everton prodigy looked the brightest player on the pitch.
Danny Welbeck has been in good form as Robin van Persie’s accomplice early in the season, but Rooney’s inclusion gave United a guile, energy and link-up play that can take them to the next level. His importance to the Premier League champions has been understated during the transfer saga, but it became apparent on Monday night.
Chelsea’s aimless meandering in the final third cried out for a player of Rooney’s intent, as the four-man attacking unit, which did not include a dedicated striker, failed to break down their opponents. The Blues’ chase of Rooney has been justified by his performance for their opponents in the clash.
Mourinho needs to pick a striker and stick with him
Three Premier League games and three different attackers have started as the furthest man forward in Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 formation, with none of them impressing overly. Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Andre Schurrle have all been used, with no goals from any of them in the first 270 minutes of the new campaign. Promising Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku has inexplicably not been given his chance.
Sure, Chelsea have been in the market for a new forward, firstly Rooney and now by default it looks like Samuel Eto’o may move to Stamford Bridge. Once whichever new man arrives, Mourinho needs to pick a striking preference and give him a run of games to build continuity.
Why no Juan Mata?
Of the attacking midfielders that have played for Chelsea this term, Oscar has looked the most dangerous and worthy of a place in the team. Eden Hazard has had a slow start to the campaign, while Kevin De Bruyne played a peripheral role in Monday’s clash with United.
Juan Mata’s abilities have been there for all to see over the last two seasons in west London, and Mourinho continued sidelining of the Spain international is puzzling.
The former Valencia man is much too good for the Blues’ bench, and certainly would have offered a lot more than the ineffective showings of Schurrle, De Bruyne and Hazard in the 0-0 draw.
United would benefit from Baines’ delivery
Danny Welbeck started from a wide area to facilitate the return of Rooney and naturally drifted in-field to get involved in play and effectively become a third frontman while United had the ball. With Branislav Ivanovic following Welbeck it allowed time and space on the ball for Patrice Evra.
Although the French veteran assisted Van Persie’s goal in the Community Shield and played a role in the side’s attacking prowess against Swansea, Evra’s end product against Chelsea was mediocre at best.
Although I am not convinced that Leighton Baines is overwhelmingly a better all-round player than Evra and feel that the French defender offers leadership, United could have used the Everton man’s pinpoint delivery in the game against Chelsea. Baines’ ability to cross accurately and pose a real overlapping threat would have been a significant part in United’s play, and would be very effective if David Moyes continues to use Welbeck on the wing with his tendencies to move infield.
Chelsea could use a holding midfielder
The visitors’ central midfield partnership of Ramires and Frank Lampard may well be combative, but both of these players’ first instincts are to get forward. With the lack of an out-and-out enforcer in Mourinho’s line-up it allowed Rooney the chance to split Chelsea’s midfield and defence and pick up the ball in dangerous areas.
Although the Blues escaped without punishment on this occasion, in big games later in the season the presence of a defensive midfielder would be a real asset for the side. Whether this is David Luiz, who was used in midfield by Rafa Benitez on occasion last term, Michael Essien or a new face remains to be seen.